You’re a church planter. You’ve been working on your vision documents for months. You’ve been spending lots of money having coffee and meals in your home with potential team members.
You finally feel like you’re gaining some momentum. It seems that this is the culmination of a lot of things God has been doing in your life for years, and you’re feeling ready to “go public” with a worship gathering…
Take Your Time on Your Website
If you’re like a lot of church planters, at this point you throw a website together quickly and cheaply, just to make sure you’ve got some kind of online presence.
But it’s a big mistake to think you can just “throw together” a website for your church plant.
Why? Because your church website is often the first impression people have of your church.
I’m a church planter and web designer/content marketer, and at our church, we’ve literally never had a visitor show up for our worship gathering who didn’t first look at our website. In fact, some first-time visitors tell us they’ve been on our email list for 6 months before they ever set foot in a worship gathering and introduced themselves in person!
Many times before people ever get a chance to meet an actual person in your church plant, they’ll decide whether or not they want to visit your church based on your church website.
So your website is a pretty important cultural artifact of your church plant. It acts as a filter that tells people whether or not they want to take the next step with your church community.
Because of that, if you don’t think carefully through both the design and content of your church website, you’ll be unnecessarily driving people away who might otherwise want to be part of your church!
Here are 8 common church website mistakes I see many planters make:
1) No staff page
I understand the impulse to skip the staff page. Especially if you’re trying to subvert a celebrity culture, or if it just seems silly because there’s literally only one staff person (you!).
But the staff (or “leadership”) page is one of the most frequently visited pages on church websites. People want to see and know something about who is leading your church.
So make sure you have a staff/leadership page, even if it’s just you! And make sure you include a photo. People want to know what you look like. It builds trust.
2) No pictures of actual gatherings
People want to get a feel for what they’re walking into, so let them “see” by posting some photos of your actual gatherings.
DO NOT use stock photos (at least stock photos of people) on your church website. People can tell that it’s not an actual photo of your community, and this will seem disingenuous or even deceitful to them.
Even if you don’t have worship gatherings yet, take some photos of your gatherings to show people what it looks like to be part of the community.
3) Not being clear enough about WHEN and WHERE you gather
After people check out your site and decide you’re not that weird, and that they trust you enough to show up for a gathering, they’re going to automatically look for information on when and where to go.
Make it easy for people to figure out when and where you meet by displaying that information prominently and often.
4) No contact form or newsletter
Sometimes people will want to ask a question or hear more from your before showing up for a gathering, so make sure you have a contact form on every page for people to be able to get in touch and ask a question.
Also, commit to writing a weekly newsletter to anyone who wants to sign up for it, with community news and gathering times, etc. Write it in such a way that insiders feel informed and outsiders get a chance to “try on” what being an insider feels like.
5) Not modern enough
Website trends change quickly, and if your church website looks like it was built 10 years ago, people will make uncharitable assumptions about your church. They’ll assume you’re out of touch, that you can’t really speak to real issues today.
These aren’t actual thoughts that people will have, but an old website will create a subconscious impression of your church. I know that’s not fair, but that’s the way it is!
It may sound a bit intangible, but make sure your website looks good according to modern standards.
6) Too much detail about what you believe
This is slightly controversial advice, perhaps, but I advise planters not to put a comprehensive statement of beliefs on their website. Why? Because the only people who care are likely not who you’re trying to reach.
It’s not that you don’t have theological positions and statements of belief, it’s just that putting those on your website indicates to unchurched people that they don’t really belong, because they probably don’t know what you’re talking about.
Just put the Apostles Creed, to indicate that you’re Christians. The point is simply to give people enough confidence to come to a gathering and meet you in person.
7) No blog
At our church plant, we’ve had several people find us through articles we posted on our blog about things that were important to us (like this one, or this one). We’ve written manifesto-y articles about the kind of community we’re cultivating, and people who resonate with those articles tend to want to show up to meet us.
So write some articles and share them! Don’t be afraid to post what you really think, too – one of the advantages of a church plant is that you get to set the culture from the get-go, so feel free to post “stake in the ground” blog posts – they’ll attract the right kinds of people and repel the wrong kinds 🙂
8) No easy way to give online
Sharing in the ministry of generosity and giving is a huge part of any church, and it’s especially important for church plants. Call people into giving financially early in your process, and make it easy for them to set up a recurring financial gift through your website.
Evidence shows that if people give by putting checks in an offering basket, and they miss a week (forgot the checkbook, etc), they don’t usually “make it up” the next week. They just forget.
Help people to be intentional about their giving by making it easy to do on your website. And make sure they can set up a recurring gift, too.
Let your website work for you
As I’ve helped churches correct these common church website mistakes, I’ve seen their websites go from being a liability to becoming an asset.
If you carefully think through its content and design, your website can work for you as a resource that gives people a picture of what your church is actually like, and those whom God is calling can be drawn in by the vision they see.
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